Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs
Tonight there was a hearing held at the Pollard Library, where community input was solicited over a proposed public charter school. I didn’t attend the hearing, as it was held during normal business hours. But, I’m told that supporters offered encouragement, some in person, some by letter.
Those you would know that are supporting this charter school are Joe Mendonca, Tom Wirtenan, Bill Taupier and Steve Pangiatakos. Opposing the proposal, at the event, were Jean Franco & Paul Georges.
I heard there was one particularly cranky man that took the opportunity to rant about greedy Unions, or some nonsense like that. Any microphone will do, eh?
I stated earlier that I’m not supporting this effort. There are plenty of private opportunities to educate your child in Lowell. We sent both our daughters to SJA (K-8), and then to Lowell High. I believe that school choice should be there, but that private schools should not drain public coffers. Thus, we went without some “things,” so our kids could have a solid educational foundation. There was a sting to the tuition. It should be that way.
The criticism of this proposal, backed by SABIS® Educational Systems, Inc., are:
- The educational approach and materials are proprietary, so any ‘lessoned learned’ overcoming challenges unique to Lowell would not be shared with other Lowell public schools.
- The charter school will selectively recruit students, draining talent and public money from LSS.
- That SABIS North America is HQ’d in Minnesota, with a global parent Corp out of Lebanon.
- The current board is comprised, partly, of folks associated to the troubled Lowell Community Charter School.
The financial impact could be huge, they say; for example, the departure of just four students could mean the loss of funding for one teaching position.
Sabis Educational Systems, a for-profit corporation based at a private school in Minnesota, would run the proposed charter school, although it would be governed by a local board of directors, which submitted the application for state approval.
“I don’t have any problem with wealthy people who want to take their kids to private school, but don’t take money away from less well-to-do kids,” said Basan Nembirkow, superintendent of Brockton schools. “I will fight tooth and nail for free public education that will provide the best opportunities to every kid that comes through the door of Brockton Public Schools.”
Nembirkow, the superintendent, is an immigrant who speaks nostalgically about how traditional public education transformed his life. He said he fears the charter school will entice away the most active parents when the city’s schools are struggling to get parents involved. That, he said, will hurt families who don’t have the resources to advocate for education.
The report released by State Auditor Joseph DeNucci found that 38 of the 48 charter schools in fiscal year 2003 carried a cash balance of several thousand or tens of thousands of dollars; the previous year 32 of the 39 charter schools operated in the black. Mystic Valley Regional Charter School had the greatest net assets, $4.4 million. In total, charter schools had $55 million in net assets.
Despite the show of financial health at most schools, several in the last fiscal year operated in the red, including Framingham Community Unity Charter School, Lowell Community Charter School, New Bedford Global Learning Charter School, and Rising Tide Charter School in Plymouth, according to the report. Lowell Community Charter School had a $186,000 deficit.
One school, the Sabis Foxborough Regional Charter, hired a management company that agreed to assume any debt the school incurred, said Glenn Briere, the auditor’s spokesman. The school is no longer managed by Sabis School Network, a for-profit school company that manages schools worldwide.
Opponents and proponents of charter schools seized on the report as evidence of the failings and strengths of the schools, which use public funds, but operate free of municipal control. …
A MA Charter Renewal Inspection Report was done for the SABIS Foxboro Regional Charter School in 2002. They found many good things, but please note these:
The Office’s review disclosed deficiencies in the Board’s governance of the School and oversight of its contract with SABIS Inc. The findings discussed in this report are summarized below:
1. The Board of Trustees did not employ sound business and contract oversight practices in administering the School’s financial relationship with SABIS Inc. during the first five years of School operations.
- Although SABIS Inc. charged the School more than $950,000 in management fees between 1995 and 1999, the School paid the salaries of the on-site staff who administered the School’s business operations on a daily basis during this period.
- The Board of Trustees authorized more than $300,000 in reimbursements to SABIS Inc. for “corporate support” expenses that were neither specified in the 1995 contract nor substantiated with invoices.
- The Board of Trustees inappropriately ceded responsibility to SABIS Inc. for selecting and engaging the services of the School’s independent auditor.
2. The contract with SABIS Inc. executed by the Board in March 2000 would significantly increase the School’s exposure to fraud, waste, and abuse. The new contract would significantly increase SABIS Inc.’s financial control over the School while reducing Board oversight.
- The new contract would significantly increase SABIS Inc.’s potential compensation while eliminating the School’s ability to invest in School programs and operations.
- The indefinite term of the new contract would insulate SABIS Inc. from competition in the future, thereby reducing its incentives to provide efficient, high-quality services to the School.
- The new contract would allow SABIS Inc., but not the School, to terminate the contract after five years.
- The dispute resolution and termination provisions of the new contract would undermine the Board’s ability to terminate the contract if SABIS Inc. failed to perform.
3. The Board of Trustees did not accurately document its official actions and policies.
3. The lack of a formal system of planning and communication creates isunderstanding and frustration across the school community and diminishes commitment to the school.
Interviews and focus groups held with the Board, administration, parents, and teachers revealed a good deal of uncertainty, confusion, and frustration about the decision making process at SABIS Foxboro. SFRCS contracts with SABIS for both management and academic services, with SABIS receiving a 6% fee for each of these areas of service. The implementation process for this contractual arrangement has not been clear to stakeholders and has resulted in a void in leadership in many instances.
There are several key areas in which the lack of an effective system for planning, communication, and decision-making has led to difficulties for the school. An early lack of leadership attending to how the school was addressing the needs of special education students led to a protracted process of negotiation with SABIS to recruit and hire a Special Education Director. A decision by SABIS to combine 8th grade classes to accommodate Kindergarten enrollment led to a significant withdrawal of 8th grade students from the school. While school documents list a substantial waiting list for openings at the school, this waiting list has not been updated since the first year of the school. Until this year, as one staff member stated, “no one was taking responsibility for enrollment.” -snip
9. There is a wide range of ability among teachers across the school to effectively engage all students in the curriculum.
Classroom observations conducted across the SFRCS revealed that the content knowledge and pedagogical skill level of teachers is quite varied. In some classrooms, teachers appeared to possess both the background knowledge needed to effectively present materials and the teaching repertoires needed to effectively engage students with the material. These classes ran smoothly and students were engaged.
In several cases, teachers were unable to present material in ways that effectively engaged learners. Observers noted instances where the presentation of concepts lacked purpose and clarity. In other cases, individual students were observed to be off task for substantial amounts of time. In many classes, classroom management issues arose as the result of teachers’ inability to effectively engage students with the curriculum materials and lesson.
Lowell needs to take a good look under the hood of SABIS®.
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